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Five Ways to Slay Your College Freshman Year

If you’re just starting college, I have one key piece of advice: Enjoy the journey.

For many, September is simply back-to-elementary-or-high-school month , but for students bound for college it's a completely new beginning.

It’s that time of the year again! You know, the time when Target’s school-supplies aisle is being raided and teachers are decorating their classrooms. This might have been what your Septembers were like in previous years. But now it’s time for a new chapter.

College.

Most—if not all—incoming freshman have the same fears. Will I make friends? Will classes be too hard? Will the professors be nice? Is it going to be weird living and going to school in the same place?

I had all these questions and more as an incoming freshman in 2014 after moving across the country from relatively-large Orange County, Calif. to a small Pennsylvania town with only 2500 students enrolled at the university.

While I was excited, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t also terrified. If you’re an incoming freshman eyeing the graduating class of 2022, here are some freshman-year-conquering tips I used myself that you might find helpful:

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

College is all about stepping out of your comfort zone! You have to share a room with a stranger, you might share a bathroom with a hall full of strangers, and you may be far from home. Everything is different and you’re far from everything that is familiar. While this is scary at first, think of it as an exciting new opportunity. At college, you’re given the rare chance to completely step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Don’t take that for granted! Go to the basketball games, join a club or society, say hi to people in the cafeteria...even if you aren’t particularly extroverted, it’s important to connect at your college campus.

Your Greatest Connection is Waiting at the Club

Nearly every college campus has ample clubs and societies, and it’s a great way to meet and connect with new people and become more involved with campus life. Though I’m not advocating signing up for every club that looks remotely interesting—that’s how you over-commit and burn out—I do recommend connecting to groups that relate to your passions. A good way to find your club niche is to attend a club fair, usually held at the beginning of the year. This event is a chance for campus societies to showcase who they are, and a chance for you to get to know what clubs might pique your interest.

Campus clubs and societies are a great way to meet people of like mind.

By joining clubs, you get to be around people with similar interests who oftentimes end up becoming your closest friends. And if you don’t see a club that you like--make one! Each college has its own rules surrounding how to start a club, and forming one based on your own interests is a great idea. Besides, there may be others looking to join a group just like yours, but they aren’t sure how to go about it. Having a strong group of friends and a solid support system is crucial when you’re in college, and clubs are great places to find these things.

Forget About Personal Space

If you’re someone who has never shared a room or had anyone infringe on your personal space, you’ll have a lot to learn when you arrive at your college dorm. Living on campus means one thing—personal space is going to become a myth. Chances are you’ll be sharing a room with at least one other person, showering in a communal shower, and enjoying meals with several of your peers. On the bright side, accepting your college living conditions—however cramped they may be—can actually lead to close bonds with others.

Personal space may be at a minimum in the college dorm, but it's a great place to find lasting friendships.

My advice? Don’t go into college life expecting freedom in the form of personal space—you’ll be very disappointed. But on those occasions when you just have to get away, claim your personal space by finding a quiet corner on campus.

Use The Library

For some reason, many freshmen are afraid of the library. Some think it’s too quiet, others think it’s for “nerds.” But in reality it should be somewhere you frequent often.

While college classes will challenge you, many freshmen make matters worse for themselves by studying in unproductive spaces. Studying in your dorm or in a friend’s room is never a good idea because it will lead to distraction 99.9% of the time. The library is the best place to do your work: First, because that’s what it’s designed for. And second, because it allows you to separate work and rest. Think about it: If you’re constantly working in your dorm room, you’ll be in a working mindset whenever you’re there, and that can cause you to resent the space. Instead, keep your bed for sleeping and the library desks for working.

Keep Your Space Clean

This tip is so important, but rarely followed. I’ll admit my room wasn’t the cleanest place by far during my college years. However, I always found that I felt better when it was clean. Studies have shown there are links between clutter, feelings of stress, and anxiety. Whether we notice it or not, a dirty or untidy living space can make us feel on edge. As a college freshman, you have enough on your plate already. Having a spotless room may be an unrealistic expectation to set for yourself, but try to keep your floor, bed, and desk clear of clutter. You’ll be amazed how much better you feel!

Live, Learn, and Love Your Home Away from Home

College was an amazing experience for me. I met new people, learned new things, and was introduced to real independence. If you’re just starting college, I have one key piece of advice: Enjoy the journey. Sure, your first few weeks might be scary because you’re venturing into the unknown. But, trust me, if you stay open to new experiences and follow the tips above, you’ll slay your freshman year—and every year after that.

College is a new experience. Enjoy the journey!

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